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The term “climate distress” describes a multitude of feelings triggered by environmental changes around us

Summer is here and with it the high temperatures. And while summer may be synonymous with holidays, good humour and happiness, the truth is that high temperatures can work against our mental health.
Research shows that as heat waves become more intense, frequent and prolonged, it has also become more important to address their impact on mental health. As recent studies show, heat has been associated with an increase in violent crime and assaults, emergency department visits and hospitalisations for mental disorders, as well as deaths, especially among people with schizophrenia, dementia, and psychosis.

Scientists have coined the term “climate distress”, also called “eco-anxiety” to describe a multitude of feelings triggered by environmental changes around us: anxiety, terror, sadness, shame, guilt. Those already suffering from anxiety or depression may find it even more difficult to cope with their condition.
Being subjected to high temperatures increases unreliability and anger and is very harmful for people suffering from anxiety, schizophrenia and depression. Older adults, adolescents and people with pre-existing mental illness are particularly vulnerable, as are people who are homeless or of low socio-economic status.

Why does the heat affect us so much?

One of the reasons for this link between rising temperatures and mental problems is sleep disruption. Increased temperature during the night leads to increased insomnia: people fall asleep later, wake up more often and sleep quality is worse.
These prolonged sleep problems negatively influence psychiatric disorders, suicide risk, memory, mood and cognitive function.
In addition, for people taking medication for schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder, there are side effects of these medications in case of higher temperatures. For example, some medications impair the body’s ability to sweat and cool itself. Extreme heat and sweating concentrate lithium levels in the body to toxic levels and cause serious physical and mental problems.